CBC rallies churches to boost turnout

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Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are poised to launch a multi-state campaign designed to get African-American voters to the polls in November.

The national drive will focus on battleground states — including North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky — where Democratic victories could prove pivotal if the party is to retain control of the Senate in the final two years of President Obama's tenure.

To launch the effort, the Democrats are promoting a Freedom Sunday campaign this weekend – a voter outreach drive targeting 3,000 African-American churches across the country.

Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeFULL SPEECH: Obama slams Trump's 'politics of fear' at rally Dems nominate Kaine for VP Sanders gives blessing as Dems nominate Clinton MORE (D-Ohio), head of the CBC, said the drive is designed to seize "an opportunity" to boost Democratic candidates by reminding African-American voters "what's at stake in this election."

"It's important for them to understand why it's important to vote in 2014," Fudge said Friday during a press briefing at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington. "This is the election that is critical."

Fudge warned that, if the Republicans take the Senate, GOP leaders would focus on impeaching the president, cutting entitlement benefits and pushing other policy changes harmful to black communities.

"They will make our lives miserable for the next two years," she said.

Fudge said the CBC campaign will spend roughly $250,000 this Sunday alone.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a Methodist pastor and former head of the CBC, said the campaign has distributed "tool kits" to pastors nationwide to promote sermons encouraging voter participation.

"We're not telling people to whom they direct their support — we don't do that," Cleaver emphasized. "[But] we do believe that if they come out and vote, that it will increase the number of people who will come to Congress who will be sensitive to the needs of all Americans." 

Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic strategist and vice chairwoman of voter participation for the DNC, said the campaign will target eight competitive Senate races where black voters can swing the outcome.

"The African-American vote is crucial — crucial — for the Democratic successes all across the country," Brazile said. "This is a year like no other. ... We've been able to target the kind of vote that we need to win."

The Democrats noted that black voters represent roughly 30 percent of Louisiana and 15 percent of North Carolina — a potential boon to Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.), both of whom are in tough reelection contests.

"With just a 1 percent additional turnout [of black voters]," Brazile said, "we can make a difference for Kay Hagan."

The strategists are targeting those voters who came out to the polls in the presidential election of 2012 but declined to do so in the midterm elections of 2010, when Republicans took control of the House and made big gains in the Senate.

They have their work cut out.

Only 43.5 percent of eligible black voters showed up at the polls in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure marks an increase from the 41 percent that voted in the previous midterm cycle in 2006, but is a far cry from the 66.2 percent that voted in 2012, when Obama was atop the ballot.

Fudge said the campaign has different goals for different states, depending on the situation on the ground.

In Louisiana, for instance, getting a 2 percent bump in black voter participation could be the difference for Democrats, Fudge said, while in Kentucky, the figure might be closer to 6 percent.

"I believe we can take Kentucky, but that number needs to be significantly higher ... because Kentucky has not historically been a high-voting state for minorities," Fudge said. 

"Different states have different numbers, but we know that if we can do 2 to 3 percent better than 2010, we can probably win every state," she added. "If we win, it worked."

While CBC leaders are vowing to blanket the country in coming weeks — "We're going to be everywhere," Fudge said — one prominent black lawmaker is not involved in the CBC's campaign. The president is aware of the outreach effort, Fudge said, but is not directly involved — at least for now.

"They know, and are supportive of the campaign," Fudge said. "But, no, there has not been a coordination with the White House."